Robert Lindgren, a Canadian-born dancer who appeared with major American ballet companies before becoming the founding dean of the influential dance program at the North Carolina School of the Arts, died on Friday at his home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, reported The New York Times. He was 89.
His death was confirmed by his wife, the dancer and teacher Sonja Tyven.
Lindgren was well known to ballet audiences in the 1940s and ’50s, although he was seen less in strictly classical roles than in contemporary ballets and as the Golden Slave in Schéhérazade. He danced with Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre) in New York in the early 1940s and with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1945 to 1952. From 1957 to 1959, he was a soloist with New York City Ballet. He also danced on television, on Broadway, and on State Department tours.
From 1965 to 1987 Lindgren was its first dean of dance at the School of the Arts (now the University of North Carolina School of the Arts) in Winston-Salem, and he also founded and directed its professional ballet troupe, North Carolina Dance Theater.
The school’s graduates became visible in American companies as diverse as Ballet Theatre, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, New York City Ballet, the Paul Taylor Company, and Nederlands Dance Theater.
Lindgren resigned as dean in 1987 when Lincoln Kirstein invited him to be his successor as director and president of the School of American Ballet. He left in 1991, reportedly over disagreements about widening the curriculum.
Drawing on his own professional experience, Lindgren remained a believer in training dancers in several dance idioms and styles. To see the full obituary, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/15/arts/dance/robert-lindgren-89-ballet-dancer-and-college-dean-is-dead.html?_r=0
The Ballets Russes—the most innovative dance company of the 20th century—propelled the performing arts to new heights through groundbreaking collaborations between artists, composers, choreographers, dancers, and fashion designers. The relationship between those artists and the ballet is explored in a free exhibit at Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art, “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music,” running now through September 2.
Founded by Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev (1872–1929) in Paris in 1909, the company combined Russian and Western traditions with a healthy dose of modernism, thrilling and shocking audiences with its powerful fusion of choreography, music, and design. Showcasing more than 130 original costumes, set designs, paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, and posters, “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes” also incorporates film clips in a theatrical multimedia installation.
Diaghilev’s success depended primarily on his ability to identify and bring together the most creative artists of his day, from artists Léon Bakst, Natalia Goncharova, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Giorgio de Chirico, to composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, and Erik Satie.
The exhibit is on view Mondays to Saturdays, 10am to 5pm, and Sundays 11am to 6pm at the National Gallery of Art, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Visit
The USA International Ballet Competition, North America’s oldest international ballet competition, has put the call out for competitors, volunteers, and others looking to join in with the upcoming event, set for June 14 to 29, 2014, in Jackson, Mississippi.
The USA IBC is a two-week “Olympic-style” competition where dancers vie for gold, silver, and bronze medals, cash awards, scholarships, and jobs. It provides an opportunity for dancers to test themselves against recognized international standards of dance excellence; to showcase their technical skill and artistic talent; to provide a forum for communication and intercultural exchange; and to educate, enlighten, and develop future artists and audience support for the art of dance.
Next year marks the competition’s 35th year and its 10th quadrennial competition. Edward Villella, recognized as one of America’s most celebrated male dancers and the founding artistic director of the Miami City Ballet, will chair the international jury for the 2014 edition.
Friends of USA IBC is now recruiting new members. This fun, co-ed group supports the USA IBC throughout each year by volunteering as office assistants, planning fundraising and Friends membership events, volunteering for USA IBC work committees, manning USA IBC and Friends information booths, and being local and national advocates for the USA IBC.
Between 800 and 1,000 volunteers are needed to run the two-week competition. Members gather twice a year, once at a membership event and once at a fundraising event. For more information, visit http://www.usaibc.com/friends/.
Dancers can begin applying for next year’s competition in June, and online applications will be available soon. For more information, visit http://www.usaibc.com.
Students of the Harlem School of the Arts and their family members will learn about a new training partnership between the HSA dance faculty and American Ballet Theatre on May 21 at 7pm.
The training partnership, which will incorporate ABT’s National Training Curriculum in HSA’s dance curriculum, will be explained with a lecture-demonstration presented by the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (JKO) School at American Ballet Theatre at HSA’s Theater, 649 Saint Nicholas Avenue, New York.
Beginning this fall, ABT will train HSA’s dance faculty in the principles of its National Training Curriculum, a comprehensive set of age-appropriate, outcome-based guidelines, consistent with the best practices in the fields of sports psychology, child/adolescent development, nutrition, and training.
JKO School principal Franco De Vita will conduct master classes at HSA throughout the year and serve as an advisor to HSA faculty, in order to effectively integrate the new ballet curriculum into HSA’s diverse offering of dance techniques, including jazz, tap, modern, African, and hip-hop.
“Over the past few years, the Harlem School of the Arts has experienced a rebirth, returning to the core values instilled by its founder, Dorothy Maynor, offering its students access to world-class training in the arts. To that end, this alliance with American Ballet Theatre will further enhance the quality of dance training provided at HSA for the future dancers of the world’s stages,” said Yvette L. Campbell, president and CEO of the Harlem School of the Arts, the sole New York City provider of quality arts education in music, dance, theater, visual arts, and musical theater.
Frederic Franklin, a charismatic British-born dancer and ballet master who was known for his stylistic versatility and his inexhaustible energy—he performed into his 90s—died May 4 in New York City, according to The New York Times. He was 98 and lived in Manhattan.
Franklin, known in the dance world as Freddie, had a genial but magnetic stage personality that made him popular everywhere he performed.
His repertory ranged from the Prince in Swan Lake to a cowboy in Rodeo and Stanley Kowalski in a choreographic version of A Streetcar Named Desire. As a principal dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Franklin was often paired with the Russian ballerina Alexandra Danilova to form one of the great partnerships of 20th-century ballet. The stage was a second home for him, and he never really stopped performing.
In his later years he portrayed mime roles like Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, the Witch in La Sylphide, the Tutor in Swan Lake, and the Charlatan in Petrouchka—all to warm applause.
Franklin founded the National Ballet of Washington in 1969 and directed it until it disbanded in 1974. He also served as an adviser to Dance Theater of Harlem, Oakland Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, and other companies.
Franklin occasionally choreographed ballets of his own. The most durable was Tribute, created for the Ballet Russe in 1961. He won special acclaim for his revivals, which were notable for both their choreographic accuracy and their theatrical vividness.
For Dance Theater of Harlem, his staging brought fresh life to Schéhérazade, Michel Fokine’s 1910 drama about unfaithful harem wives. Franklin altered none of the traditional steps; instead, he invested them with fresh dramatic motivation. He also preserved the traditional steps for the company’s Giselle. Yet by changing the setting of this 1841 classic from the German Rhineland to the Louisiana bayous, he encouraged his cast to dance with unusual emotional intensity.
The recipient of many awards for lifetime achievement, he was named a Commander of the British Empire in 2004.
To read the full obituary, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/arts/dance/frederic-franklin-inventive-ballet-star-dies-at-98.html?_r=0.
Sarah Jessica Parker will be executive producing a documentary web series about New York City Ballet that features behind-the-scenes access to the dance troupe, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
City.Ballet is being created by AOL and will premiere this autumn. According to Vanity Fair, Parker has been on the NYCB board for a couple of years, and was the impetus for last year’s collaboration between the ballet and famed designer Valentino. Valentino designed costumes for the 2012 Fall Gala.
To watch the web series video teaser, visit http://on.aol.com/show/coming-soon-originals-517756965/episode/517762236?icid=aolon_cityballet_bfbpost1. To see the original story, visit http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/aol-newfront-15-new-shows-449070.
Aeternum; photo courtesy Official London Theatre
Christopher Wheeldon’s first work as a Royal Ballet Artistic Associate, Aeternum has won the award for Best New Dance Production at the Olivier Awards with MasterCard, reports Official London Theatre.
Wheeldon’s 21-minute piece, which was presented as part of a mixed bill with George Balanchine’s Apollo and Alexei Ratmansky’s 24 Preludes, featured Royal Ballet principal Marianela Nuñez—who won the Outstanding Achievement in Dance Award—at its dark, menacing heart. Nuñez’s performances in Diana & Actaeon and Viscera with the Royal Ballet also factored into her win.
In winning the award Aeternum triumphed over fellow nominees Scottish Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Nederlands Dans Theatre 2’s Cacti.
In musical theater news, Bill Deamer won the Autograph Sound Award for Best Theatre Choreographer for Top Hat. Deamer was previously nominated for his work on Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre hit The Boy Friend, and he was also responsible for creating new choreography for the 2011 hit Love Never Dies, as well as touring productions of Evita! and Jekyll and Hyde.
Deamer paid tribute to Special Award winner Gillian Lynne, saying: “There’s a lady out there who is going to be awarded something special later on called Gillian Lynne and I believed in what she taught me as a choreographer . . . she said to me ‘Never change your belief, always do what you believe’ and she was right. I am so happy I can’t tell you. It’s the best thing that has happened in my life.”
To see full news on the Olivier Awards, visit http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/news/latest-news/#/?rows=10&q=&sort=go_live_date_dt%20desc&start=10
The world-renowned Mariinsky Ballet’s recent performance of the risqué Fokine ballet Scheherazade was a highlight of the Abu Dhabi Culture Festival, with the ballet selling out the 1,100-seat Emirates Palace auditorium in conservative, strait-laced Abu Dhabi on its first visit to the United Arab Emirates.
The New York Times said visits to the Middle East by touring dance companies are becoming increasingly frequent, and are helping to popularize classical ballet in the Gulf region. In mid-April, the Sofia Ballet from Bulgaria performed Don Quixote in Dubai, while the Royal Danish Ballet, accompanied by the Royal Danish Orchestra, performed La Sylphide and the third act of Napoli in Oman in January.
“We would like to explore the Mideast market more,” Yuri Fateyev, director of the Mariinsky Ballet, said in an interview. “It’s important for us to be here to see if the audience responds to high quality classical art like this.”
Classical dance is facing tough financial times worldwide, with governments cutting back financing during the crisis years and high-priced ballet shows having to compete for younger audiences against more-accessible forms of entertainment.
The prospect of reaching new markets, with new financing and new audiences, is attracting the companies. In turn, their higher profile in the region is encouraging the development of local talents, reflected in the opening of the Dubai Dance Academy in 2011, a school teaching pure classical ballet to both children and adults.
To see the full story, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/world/middleeast/ballet-gains-a-toehold-in-the-middle-east.html?ref=dance&_r=0.
By David Arce
Dancers often stand too close to the barre when doing tendus from first position after pliés. Once they move their weight from first position (weight over the balls of both feet) to tendu (all weight over the ball of the standing leg), the supporting arm at the barre bends more than it should. Have them stand far enough away that they can only touch the barre with their fingertips. When they perform a tendu correctly, they can now rest the hand on the barre at the correct distance.
Too often dancers feel the need to grip or “hang” from the barre. Remind them: “The barre is your friend, not a crutch.” Once the hand of the supporting arm touches the barre, it should only make minor adjustments to ensure and maintain alignment, or push down gently. Pushing down activates the supporting side (latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major muscles), allowing the neck and head to be free of tension.
Museum’s Public Art Project is to the Pointe
“It was a good fit.” And with that pun, Sarah Hall Weaver described the impetus behind a public art and fund-raising project by the National Museum of Dance—24 five-foot-tall pointe shoes, decorated by area artists and sponsored by local businesses, scattered about the tourism town of Saratoga Springs, New York.
Weaver, NMD assistant director, told Dance Studio Life that the idea of oversized shoes dovetailed nicely with a current exhibit, “En Pointe,” which explores the history and mystery of pointe shoes, as well as with the museum’s longstanding desire to stimulate the local arts community.
The participating artists—painters, sculptors, and artists working in mosaic, collage, metals, and other 3D media—were encouraged to infuse the work they did on the shoes with their own artistic vision. Many thought they had to base their work on a dance-related theme like ballerinas or tutus. “We explained that when you see a work of dance, it’s not always about dance—that’s just the medium. That is hard for people who are not so dance savvy to understand. You could hear the sighs of relief” from the artists, she said.
After an official unveiling May 31 at the museum, the shoes will be scattered around town, where Weaver hopes they will intrigue passersby for years to come. “It’s cheeky, and a little fun, and a way of warming up new audiences to dance.”
Writers Take the Prize at Joffrey Ballet School
It usually takes raw talent, impeccable technique, and visible promise to make it into one of the top summer ballet intensives. At the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, it might, instead, take a neat turn of phrase, a catchy anecdote, or a moving story.
This winter, Christopher D’Addario, Joffrey Ballet School’s executive director, waded through 1,000 personal essays submitted by students eager to win a full two-week tuition/housing scholarship to one of the school’s intensives in New York, L.A., Miami, and elsewhere.
The huge response was unexpected, he said—the first year of the contest, only 100 essays arrived; the second year, 500. D’Addario, who was up until 1am for longer than a month trying to read all of the essays, told Dance Studio Life he wasn’t looking for “grammatically correct writing,” but “great personal stories” from young dancers who are passionate about dance.
Awarding scholarships based on essays instead of auditions works because Joffrey recently restructured its intensive program to include a beginner level, he said. About 30 lucky essayists will win scholarships for summer 2013—prizes given in addition to $1 million in talent-based scholarships. “I’m very happy that we can touch so many dancers’ lives,” said D’Addario.
Dance Studio Industry Revenue Tops $2 Billion
Times might seem tight at individual studios, but the dance studio industry as a whole is expected to generate $2.1 billion in revenue in 2013, reports industry research firm IBISWorld.
In a report issued in January, IBISWorld said the dance studio industry has experienced annual revenue growth of 1.2 percent over the past five years, despite challenges caused by the recession, with growth of 2.4 percent predicted for 2013. The growth is due in part to the impact of dance-inspired TV shows, with the lion’s share going to ballroom-based studios and events, which have experienced a 35 percent attendance spike over the past decade.
“Rising consumer interest” will also fuel growth in the number of dance studios, which is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 1.2 percent to a total of 8,264 studios in 2013, with annual revenue continuing to rise as well.
The World Weighs in on Web Ballet
Call it choreography by crowdsourcing. California’s Diablo Ballet—a ballet pioneer of live performance tweeting and Pinterest—is continuing its march through new media by soliciting ideas for the movement, mood, and music for its latest ballet via Twitter.
This winter, fans not only voted for which musical selection (choices by Vivaldi, Sibelius, and Bach) would be used, but chimed in with suggestions for emotions, theme, storylines, and even steps. Diablo dancer Robert Dekkers then took seven of those suggestions and, in a little over two weeks’ time, choreographed a ballet that premiered March 1 and 2 at Shadelands Arts Center, Walnut Creek.
Co-founder and artistic director Lauren Jonas said while the idea might not work for other dance companies, it fit with Diablo’s preference for presenting in intimate venues and encouraging interaction between performers and the public. “I feel there are so many choices nowadays of what people do with their time and how they spend their money,” she told Dance Studio Life. “How do we continue to reach that audience and get them interested and involved? We have to remain open and embrace all sorts of outlets.”
Dekkers, who has choreographed both for Diablo and his own company, Post:Ballet, told DSL the “web ballet” process was a test of his choreographic ingenuity. “I have to go past being in control of all the ideas and concepts, take these seven suggestions, and develop a piece that is interesting and is a cohesive work. I wanted the best of both worlds—to use technology to get people involved, and still maintain a high standard of creativity and presentation.”
By Lois O’Brian
New again to ballroom dancing, 30 years after being new the first time, I am shocked at the wonderful ordinariness of its eclectic participants. I am also shocked at its popularity. And I am delighted about the dance world it has opened up to me.
My mid-sized city is dotted with veterans’ posts, church halls, and coffee shops regularly hosting social dances, half-hour group lesson included. At a cost of $8 to $12 per person (no partner required), it’s cheaper than most movies and a better bet for pleasing the crowd.
Arthritis and hip surgery caught up with me a few years ago. A lifelong ballet teacher, I was no longer able to enjoy doing grand jetés, pirouettes, and petit allegro. But I longed for the joy of moving, gliding, flying across the floor, and responding to music with my whole body.
I tried karate; not too much music is involved, but the students at our school were nimble and graceful. Their bows to the teaching space upon entering and leaving were like a dance. Karate is an art form, but it was at least as tough on arthritic joints as ballet. I needed something else. Modern dance provides so many more correct options than ballet—parallel positions, for example—but with my physical limitations, I still didn’t get the thrill of movement I needed.
Dance the waltz and the foxtrot when you’re feeling smooth; the merengue, salsa, and cha-cha when you’re in a fiery mood; the lindy when you’re “hep to jive.”
Ballroom dancing, however, provides a grand movement sensation without beating up on the joints. Dance the waltz and the foxtrot when you’re feeling smooth; the merengue, salsa, and cha-cha when you’re in a fiery mood; the lindy when you’re “hep to jive.” The quickstep is for flying across the floor—just watch Richard Gere and Lisa Ann Walter in Shall We Dance?
Entering the studio for our first lesson, my husband and I noticed the smoothness of the couple whose lesson preceded ours. They had style, after only a year’s experience, and they had never entered a ballet studio. That style turned out to be harder to grasp than I had thought. I can learn steps quickly and follow my partners with ease. But that flow, that certain something that makes a foxtrot a foxtrot or a waltz a waltz—I haven’t yet captured it.
There are so many moves. I love a traditional polka (so happy!) and the ’70s hustle. The Latin dances call for Cuban motion (hard on arthritic hips). The waltz, with its German and Austrian roots, is so different—and yet the rumba has some of the same qualities. I found a Viennese waltz on YouTube, with music by Avril Lavigne. How refreshing that the waltz has moved from Vienna of the 18th century to the internet of the 21st!
I love dancing with an unknown quantity. Someone tall, dark, and handsome is no substitute for a short, old guy who can dance!
The people on the local dance floors are middle-school teachers and computer programmers, receptionists and hairdressers. They are young and slim and old and overweight, and yet they move like a dream. Being in such a diverse group of people who hear a song and race to the dance floor shouting, “Salsa!” or “Country two-step!” reassures me that the “folk” are still “dancing.”
I’ve always felt everyone should dance, no exceptions. Dancing is to be done, not watched (my love of ballet aside). I’ve always longed for a society or a time in which Fezziwig’s Christmas party—complete with fiddlers and an entire staff that knows the dances—was the norm. I was happy to see, as my children looked into colleges, that so many of them listed ballroom dancing as a student activity.
I hope my rediscovered joy of dancing with a partner continues. It’s like singing in harmony—you’re linked to someone else, and you feel the excitement of the tension of your interdependence.
Did So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars spur this craze of structured social dancing, or was it the other way around? As George Balanchine said in the title of his dance set to popular songs by Gershwin, “Who cares?” We’re dancing!
Ballethnic’s uncommon blend of African and European dance
By Mary Ellen Hunt
The earthy grounding of African dance and the airy grace of ballet are not so far apart, philosophically or physically, at Ballethnic Academy of Dance. Founders Waverly T. Lucas II and Nena Gilreath have built a curriculum that offers both—as well as modern, tap, and hip-hop. But here the focus is as much on building character and developing the whole person as on teaching dance.
It’s the similarities between ballet and ethnic dance that are most interesting to Lucas, who came up with the name “Ballethnic.” “Between those two forms, you encompass every other aspect of dance,” he says. “While there is freedom in African dance, there is also specificity in the movement and in the placement, and I think sometimes people ignore the particulars of that. In classical ballet, you have those particulars—you try to find your own way of moving within the limits of the genre to present that in as creative and unique way as possible, while blending it with core, or the intent of work. In African dance, at times you have more expressive freedom, because that’s in its nature. But in classical ballet you have expressive freedom as well.”
“The way Mr. Waverly’s mind works is amazing to me,” says Savery Morgan, who has danced with the Ballethnic Dance Company since 2005 and, like all of the company members, also teaches in the school. “He has a fresh approach. It’s not as though he’s trying to create something new in the technique, yet he comes up with things that I’ve never seen before.” He says Lucas’ petit allegro has much in common with African dance footwork and that the quality of adagio in ballet is very much like the continuous movement taught in African.
The school’s roots
Located in East Point, Georgia, just south of Atlanta, Ballethnic’s studios occupy some 20,000 square feet, and Lucas and Gilreath are quick to note that owning the property has been a worthwhile investment. With three studios in the building, Lucas says the 150 students they serve bring the facility nearly to its capacity.
Both Gilreath and Lucas are former members of Dance Theatre of Harlem and Atlanta Ballet, and the philosophies and working styles of both companies have been instrumental in shaping the way they see their own company and school.
While there is freedom in African dance, there is also specificity in the movement and in the placement, and I think sometimes people ignore the particulars of that. —Waverly T. Lucas II
“Without the influence of Dance Theatre of Harlem, I don’t think there would be a Ballethnic,” Lucas says. “DTH not only set the foundation but also motivated us to believe in this concept, because it is an offshoot of their basic philosophy. That’s where we were introduced to the idea of blending classical ballet with African.” (A neoclassical ballet company formed in 1969, DTH showcased African American influences in works by such choreographers as Geoffrey Holder, artistic director Arthur Mitchell, and Vincent Mantsoe.)
“At Atlanta Ballet,” says Gilreath, “[Artistic director Robert] Barnett fostered a free-flowing, easygoing atmosphere, which was totally different from New York. Everybody at Atlanta Ballet cared about quality of life very much, and it was there that I learned that you could work hard and have a good time at the same time.”
Gilreath, who grew up in a blue-collar town in North Carolina and graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts, adds, “I liked the pride of being an African American doing ballet at a high level. I liked being proud of being a chocolate girl, and that experience guided how I wanted to influence girls of color.”
Starting a school that would encourage African American kids to study ballet, however, wasn’t a universally endorsed notion. Traditionally, ballet companies (and thus classes) have been predominantly white, a deterrent for children of color, especially those who are black.
“People said discouraging things,” recalls Gilreath. “ ‘You’re not going to get black kids in your school; they won’t do ballet.’ But we would play all kinds of music and mix that with ballet. Once the kids saw that ballet was no different from anything else, they weren’t so fearful of it.”
“Before I came to Ballethnic, as a young lady, my uniform was always pink tights,” says Jennifer Thomas, who began studying at Ballethnic at age 9 and now, at 30, is on the company’s board. “At Ballethnic we wore flesh-colored tights [that matched our skin tones]. It was such a small thing, but I think that gave me a special pride, because it said your complexion is a beautiful part of your artistry.”
Gilreath says, “We’ve had a bunch of bunheads and some kids who went on to be singers, play instruments; several people have gone on to Broadway. We’ve always said that tap will help with ballet, African dance will help with ballet. Our academy is all about building a diverse dancer, but our number-one priority is ballet. We believe that if you’re able to do ballet effectively, you can do anything else.”
“When I started at Ballethnic, I saw how passionate and talented all the students were,” says Thomas. “At the time I was a bit of a bunhead; I was disappointed to take off my pointe shoes. But everything about my technique was strengthened by taking these other classes. You only deepen your knowledge by learning about the whole body. You find out that you don’t have to be in some kind of silo and only learn one thing—that you shouldn’t be shut off to other ideas and opportunities. And that intellectual curiosity applies to so many other areas of life.”
Starting out: Ballethnicize
Over the years, Lucas has developed a teaching system he calls “Ballethnicize,” which incorporates elements of ballet, jazz, and modern African dance principles. Its form is flexible enough to adapt for a wide range of abilities, from adult students (who do a conditioning form of the Ballethnicize class) to preschoolers as young as 3 and a half.
Kiddie Ballethnicize starts with a musical section, in which drumming helps the students learn basic rhythm and appreciate moving with music. Next is center work, “so they gain an understanding of space,” Lucas says, “and we teach them about the fixed points of the room. After that they work on stretching exercises. With the kids, we use props to make it fun—I teach them to reach out to touch their legs to something. They learn that stretching isn’t a labor but a fun thing.”
The sequence progresses toward building more complex motor movements—hopping, jumping, skipping, galloping. And becoming acclimated to the stage is also part of the early training.
“Our kids learn early what upstage and downstage are, stage right and stage left,” Lucas says. “Because of all this, we can have our students dance in a professional production from a young age without needing to have bigger kids out there leading them, or teachers giving them instructions from the wings. We empower them by teaching them and expecting them to come up to a level of excellence. We teach every class with the expectation they can learn something that they can present back, because if they’re not learning things, then it’s just babysitting.”
When it’s time for more serious training, Lucas says, “We have to be careful not to kill their spirit. Our teachers are challenged to keep it fun. You want to be serious and have a purpose, but that reward has to be in there.”
A no-nonsense approach
In the academy, Gilreath and Lucas run a tight ship. Dress code at the studio, which includes flesh-toned tights and shoes rather than pink, is mandatory; hair ornaments, jewelry, and warm-ups are not allowed in class. In addition, students are expected to have a dance journal and a copy of Gail Grant’s Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet with them whenever they’re in class. The writing not only helps hone verbal skills, it adds a reflective component to the students’ work and emphasizes the seriousness of their dance studies.
“Ballethnic is not for everybody,” says Gilreath. “We are no-nonsense and straightforward. I’m going to say things that are not popular: ‘The work is the star; it is not about you.’ It’s all about the work, and that’s tough for people to hear.”
That said, many students are extremely serious about working. The school offers nine levels of classes that run from the pre-ballet Kiddie Ballethnicize class to a pre-professional Level A program. The Level A program includes nearly 11 hours of classes each week, including ballet, African dance, jazz, tap, hip-hop, pointe, men’s class, and pas de deux. The school also offers special workshops and classes in nutrition, makeup, costume design, dance history, and stage etiquette. Students in the upper level put in more hours, for rehearsals, if they are cast in dance productions.
“The kids might take as many as 15 to 20 class hours a week,” says Morgan, who teaches Vaganova-based ballet, modern, and jazz dance at the school. “We have kids who are extremely committed. It’s interesting that the ones who commit to that schedule are often the straight-A honor students too.”
“The discipline is something that will not be compromised,” Lucas says. “You must appreciate discipline, because it is what allows you to become successful. We feel that if we develop disciplined young people, they’re at that first stage of success. Add talent to that and you almost ensure success. If you don’t have extreme talent, but you have discipline, you’re going to figure out a way to become successful. That’s our basic, simple philosophy.”
This approach, Lucas says, allows dance to benefit each individual, no matter where the student’s talents lie. Schools that focus almost entirely on their very talented students, he says, “ignore the dancer who struggles, but who may be brilliant at something else. I want to maximize the potential of the person in whatever area they are in. We teach them that if you stand up straight, present yourself, and know how to make an entrance into a room, that’s the same concept as making an entrance onto the stage. You are being noticed, and that lesson can be transferred to any situation.”
As part of their outreach efforts, Lucas and Gilreath have created the Danseur Development Project, designed to encourage boys to consider studying dance.
“We’re trying to take young men off the streets and the basketball court and get them into the studio,” says Lucas, who recruits boys by talking with parents and taking male company dancers to visit football camps, where they give ballet demonstrations. “We want them to see that this can be your basketball, your baseball, your football as well. It is just as athletic, if not more so.”
The recruitment has been so successful that the school is able to offer regular pas de deux classes (which Lucas relishes teaching) as part of the curriculum. A significant amount of experience in partnering, unusual in small schools, gives the students a distinct advantage when they go to other pre-professional programs or college, Lucas points out. Plus, he adds, there is a social development aspect that has value beyond the studio.
“You’re developing gentlemen in pas de deux, and that’s something that young ladies and parents appreciate,” he says. “Most young men try to show how macho they are, but they don’t know how to be gentlemen, and this is what I want them to understand—that there is nothing effeminate about being a gentleman. That is the most masculine thing you can be.
“This commitment to young men and women makes their whole experience better,” he continues. “We would rather they engage with each other in the studio, where we can instill discipline and respect, than in the streets or mall, where anything goes.”
Prepared for life
Gilreath and Lucas are keen to teach their students lessons they can take into any career. A workshop series called “Beyond the Barre” teaches business fundamentals such as marketing, fund-raising, and public speaking, exposing students to another side of the arts world.
Thomas, who studied with Ballethnic through her college years but later went into law, says her experiences at the academy and with the company opened up a new world for her. As a board member, she now lends her legal skills and expertise and helps with fund-raising. And those lessons learned at Ballethnic continue to serve her, she says.
“There’s a discipline about being an artist that you can take into other areas of your life,” says Thomas. “You are prepared to be competitive. In a courtroom, you have to stand in front of a jury or a panel of judges and carry yourself with aplomb, which is the same as performing in front of an audience.
“Ballethnic doesn’t change the art form of ballet or African dance,” she continues, “but it brings you into it, makes you a part of it, and there’s something very special about that. I gained a sense of confidence as a teenager—of my own self and what I could achieve—and Ballethnic did that for me. It made me feel as if I were a part of something beautiful.”
Ana Marie Forsythe on Lester Horton’s legacy and the need for codified modern dance
By Eliza Randolph
Ana Marie Forsythe still remembers her first Horton technique class, in the late 1950s at the Newark Ballet Academy. Former Horton dancer Joyce Trisler came, at Fred Danieli’s invitation, to teach class to his students, who Danieli felt needed to be more versatile dancers. Forsythe was wowed by Trisler—and by what she taught.
“She would come once or twice a week to teach us this Horton technique. No one had any idea what it was at that time—about 1957 or ’58,” Forsythe says.
That first class is still vivid in her memory. “In walked this tall, beautiful woman, with incredibly long legs and gorgeous feet,” she continues. “And she had a personality to go with that beautiful body, that talent. And I realized, ‘This is like all the discipline of ballet, and instead of doing a pirouette upright, I can turn upside down! I can jump sideways in the air and land on the floor.’ ” I remember being absolutely captivated from the very beginning. And here it is, more than 50 years later, and I’m still captivated by the technique.”
That technique was developed by California-based dancer, choreographer, and teacher Lester Horton during the 1930s and ’40s. He developed his technique—which shows traces of his study of Native American, Japanese, Javanese, and Balinese dance, well as ballet, plus his brief interaction with the Denishawn company—not as a particular philosophy of movement but as a way to correct physical faults and build versatile dancers.
Forsythe has dedicated herself to teaching and preserving the technique, which informs the aesthetic of many beloved companies in the United States, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Ailey himself studied with Horton), Philadanco, and Dallas Black Dance Theater. In the early 1990s Forsythe, who is chair of the Horton department at The Ailey School, co-wrote, with Marjorie B. Perce and Cheryl Bell, a definitive guide to the codified technique, Dance Technique of Lester Horton. Forsythe has taught at The Ailey School since the 1970s, and each summer she offers a Horton Pedagogy Workshop there.
A hallmark of Horton technique is its accessibility “to every kind of body. It was not designed on a specific body type, so you can successfully do Horton technique even if you have short legs, or if you don’t have really high extensions or that much turnout.” —Ana Marie Forsythe
A hallmark of Horton technique, says Forsythe, is its accessibility “to every kind of body. It was not designed on a specific body type, so you can successfully do Horton technique even if you have short legs, or if you don’t have really high extensions or that much turnout. And it enables people to move in a way that increases their flexibility, so that they do end up getting high legs, and they do improve their turnout and their facility.”
Forsythe has taught Horton to all types of dancers—children, professionals, and adults who simply love to take class. “It is always successful,” she says. “It’s always satisfying to people, because there’s a progression about it that’s very special. The warm-up is very centering. You start moving right away, rolling down, rolling up, flat backs, laterals, in all kinds of dimensions. And it warms the body up easily and without too much stress.
“Horton was trying to create a technique that was anatomically corrective,” she continues. He sought to train dancers not for a particular aesthetic result, but for strength, flexibility, and avoiding injury. For example, Forsythe says, Horton “devised this idea of working one fully turned out leg against a parallel leg. So, you were only working one leg turned out to its max, without having two legs turned out and putting stress on the body.”
She describes the technique’s approach to falls as another exemplar of his philosophy. Horton dancers can fall dramatically, in any direction. But each fall is carefully designed, considering such aspects, she says, as “what part of the body is supporting this fall? How are you lowering the body? Are you using your quadriceps, your gluteus maximus; are you using an oppositional pull? How are you getting the body down to the floor so that it looks exciting but is also safe?”
Forsythe thinks people can tell a Horton dancer when they see one, by several subtle signs. “I think there’s a clarity of line,” she says. “I think they have very supple backs, very high extensions. They connect movement in a certain way. I think there’s a depth to the way they move that is different from some of the other techniques.” Elaborating on the idea of line, she says, “One of [Horton’s] favorite words was ‘attenuation’—to pull something out to its thinnest. And I love that definition. Because that’s what you’re doing—you’re elongating your line in every possible direction.”
When discussing best practices for teaching Horton technique, Forsythe has some straightforward advice. “It’s important not to get too percussive,” she says. “It’s basically a lyrical technique. A lot of jazz teachers do use the Horton warm-up, so it takes on a dynamic quality that’s not always what Horton intended.
“The other thing I would say is that the fortification and balance studies he created are beautiful to look at, and they do have a performance quality to them. But teachers need to remember that they need to incorporate some of those designs, some of those movements into combinations so that dancers can understand about transitions,” Forsythe says.
“What you’re trying to do is train a dancer who can do any kind of dance. And if you only teach the studies, if you always do it exactly the same way in every class, then the students don’t get the opportunity to experiment, to experience a lateral T coming from another direction.”
In an era when modern-dance classes are becoming increasingly eclectic, or in some cases replaced by the broader term “contemporary,” Forsythe insists on the importance of accuracy and specificity when teaching codified techniques. “I’ve had students who say, ‘I’ve never studied Horton,’ ” she says, “and then I’ll be teaching something and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I did that!’ No one told them what they were learning. And that’s a real problem; it upsets me.”
She is rigorous about maintaining the integrity of codified techniques and providing context for the exercises used in class. “When a student asks me a question like, ‘Is that a tilt?’ I say, ‘Wait a minute. A tilt is a specific movement in the Graham technique. So don’t use that here.’ You have to use the terminology of the technique you’re studying.
“If you’re going to teach a Horton class,” she continues, “then teach it as accurately as you possibly can. And if you deviate from that, that’s OK. Just be fair and say to your students, ‘This is not a Horton study; this is my own information.’ I think it’s important that dance students know what they’re learning. They pay money, they work hard at their craft, and they deserve to have that kind of information given to them.”
In considering growth and change in the dance field over time, Forsythe champions the importance and relevance of the codified techniques. “Let’s not lump it all together and call it ‘contemporary,’ ” she says. “I don’t really approve of that.” She takes heart from having recently received the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching from the American Dance Festival, a testament to the value of her contributions to the field.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to modern dance,” she says. “I think these pioneers like Martha Graham and Lester Horton, Cunningham, Limón worked really hard to build a codified technique. And maybe we need the next generation to build a different kind of codified technique.”
For her part, Forsythe remains dedicated to Horton technique and what it has to offer. “If it’s taught properly,” she says, “it really does open up a whole new world.”
The Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition (VKIBC) is accepting applications from dancers ages 13 to 25 for this year’s event, scheduled for June 27 to 30 in the concert hall of the LaGuardia High School, 100 Amsterdam Avenue, New York City.
As in past years, the competition is divided into three divisions: Student, 13 to 14 years old; Junior, 15 to 17 years old; and Senior, 18 to 25 years old. Dances can be selected from the VKIBC list of repertory, which includes solos and duets from Coppélia, Don Quixote, Diana and Actaeon, Giselle, La Bayadère, Raymonda, Sleeping Beauty, and others. A full list is available on the VKIBC website.
Entrants are also required to learn, through videos with detailed notes, contemporary dances by
Jacqulyn Buglisi (female solo),Viktor Kabaniaev (male solo), and/or Paulo Arrais (duet).
Awards include scholarships to schools in the U.S. and abroad, guest appearances, monetary awards, and company contracts. In previous years, companies offering scholarship and contracts included the Boston Ballet, Boston Ballet II, Washington Ballet Studio Company, Columbia Classical Ballet, and others.
The judges for 2013 are Andris Liepa (Russia), president of the jury; Olga Guardia de Smoak (Panama), Deborah Hess (Canada), Hae Shik Kim (South Korea), Tadeusz Matacz (Germany), Serguei Soloviev (France), Bo Spassoff (USA), Septime Webre (USA), and Stanton Welch (Australia).
To apply, or to learn more about VKIBC, visit www.vkibc.com.
Five students from Canada’s National Ballet School will participate in the Paris Opera Ballet School’s 300th anniversary gala performance—the Gala des Écoles de Danse du XXIe siècle—on April 20 at the Palais Garnier in Paris, France.
The Paris Opera Ballet School, as established by Louis XIV, is the oldest ballet school in the Western world, and is long considered the birthplace of classical ballet. The school’s Gala des Écoles de Danse du XXIe siècle performance is part of tercentenary celebrations that are taking place throughout the year.
NBS senior students Patrick Foster, Hailey Hamblin, Soo Ah Kang, Liam Redhead, and Martin ten Kortenaar will dance excerpts from Les Chambres des Jacques, as staged by Canadian choreographer and NBS alumna Aszure Barton. Barton will also be joining NBS’ students in Paris, along with NBS artistic director Mavis Staines and artistic faculty member Shaun Amyot.
As the sole North American ballet school participating in the festivities, NBS will join the Paris Opera Ballet School, as well as the Royal Danish Ballet School, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, The Royal Ballet School, John Cranko Schule, The School of The Hamburg Ballet and the Accademia Teatro alla Scala, who are also performing at the gala.
“Not only is performing on the stage of the Palais Garnier an incredible opportunity for our students, but events such as these also provide an occasion for the international dance community to show support for one another and remain connected,” Staines said.
Visitors to the elite feeder school for Cuba’s renowned National Ballet in Havana might be forgiven for thinking they’re suddenly seeing triple.
Identical triplets Angel, Cesar, and Marcos Ramirez wear matching black leotards and white socks as they leap, prance, and twirl across the linoleum floor of the mirrored studio. Even their instructors have trouble telling the Ramirez boys apart, but they say the 13-year-olds have already separated themselves from their peers technically and artistically, and all three have the talent to make a big splash in the ballet world when they grow up.
According to an Associated Press story in The Washington Post, if they succeed, they will join a long line of celebrated dancers trained in Cuba, where fans from every social stratum follow the careers of ballet stars like Carlos Acosta and Rolando Sarabia as closely as those of baseball players or boxers.
While the odds are tough, Mirlen Rodriguez, a 24-year-old teacher and former student at the school, says the brothers all have a chance of making their careers onstage. “They are at a level that is beyond high,” Rodriguez said.
The three have already beaten long odds simply by being born. According to 2010 data compiled by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, only 0.14 percent of births that year were triplets or higher-order multiple births.
The Ramirezes enrolled in the ballet school at age 10 after passing a rigorous exam and being selected over dozens of other children with similar dreams. More than 300 boys and girls train here in eight different grades, all hoping to make it to the National Ballet.
“It’s a virus that can’t be cured with antibiotics,” said Ramona de Saa, the school’s director. “And all that passion can be felt in the school.”
To see the full story, visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/identical-brothers-a-triple-threat-at-cuba-ballet-school-all-have-talent-to-make-the-stage/2013/04/13/45d5fcb4-a400-11e2-bd52-614156372695_story.html.
Christian Siriano, Project Runway’s season 4 champion, found inspiration for his spring/summer 2013 collection in the movement of ballet.
EW.com reported on Siriano’s new video and print campaign released last week. Siriano enlisted his beau Brad Walsh to shoot the campaign film that features his whimsical pastel designs draped over dancers Katerina Eng, Isabelle Seiler, and Carolyn Lippert of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre.
“I wanted the video to portray the dancers as if each were dreaming about the costumes they’d be wearing in a performance,” Siriano said in a statement. “I wanted this collection to feel as light, soft, and romantic as the dancers on the stage and in the painting, but modern enough to be wearable by today’s elegant woman.”
Some of Siriano’s spring pieces were taken for a spin on the red carpet during last year’s awards season: Kaley Cuoco wore a pink one-shoulder frock at the 2012 People’s Choice Awards, and Carrie Underwood chose a pink and grey ensemble during her frenzy of dress changes at the 2012 Country Music Awards. See more of the designer’s dresses come to life ballet-style in the video at http://popstyle.ew.com/2013/04/10/christian-siriano-releases-ballet-inspired-spring-2013-campaign-film-video/.
Hailed for her “thrilling power of momentum,” Maria Tallchief, a longtime Chicagoan, died April 11 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to family members. She was 88, reported The Chicago Tribune.
Oklahoma-born daughter of a Native American, Tallchief was one of the 20th century’s greatest ballerinas, a key player in the art of George Balanchine, and later a force in the history of Chicago dance.
“She was truly legendary, not only as one of the wives of Balanchine, but an extraordinary expert on multiple planes of the art,” Kenneth von Heidecke, a Tallchief protégé and head of the Von Heidecke Chicago Festival Ballet, said. “She brought to us a vast treasure of knowledge and expertise, even including the laws of physics that determined what we did and the spiritual aspects of our work.”
She was director of ballet for the Lyric Opera of Chicago for most of the 1970s, and, in 1981, launched the Chicago City Ballet and served as co-artistic director until its 1987 demise. Earlier, she was married to Balanchine for six years and, during the late 1940s and early ’50s, served as his star in major early works of the New York City Ballet. She created roles in his Firebird (1949), Pas de Dix (1955), and his exuberant Allegro Brillante (1956), a 13-minute masterpiece.
As a young dancer, she had studied with Bronislava Nijinska and danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. In 1952, she appeared briefly as legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova in the film Million Dollar Mermaid, starring Esther Williams.
Tallchief, who was born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief on January 24, 1925, in Fairfax, Oklahoma, had her struggles, but never lost her imposing, elegant bearing or sharp wit. “There’s a price to be paid for doing serious dance,” she told the Tribune in a 1987 interview. “As my druggist said the other day, ‘You’re now paying for all those years.’ But he said, ‘It was worth it, wasn’t it?’ And I said, ‘It certainly was.’ ”
To read the full obituary, visit http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obituaries/ct-ent-0413-tallchief-obit-20130413,0,819750.story.
It was only 18 months ago that the Russian ballerina, Natalia Osipova, shocked the dance world by leaving the Bolshoi Ballet, where she was considered a major star, to join the lesser-known Mikhailovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg. But on Monday, the Royal Opera House announced that Osipova will join the Royal Ballet as a principal dancer for the 2013-14 season, according to The New York Times ArtsBeat.
In an interview with the Russian newspaper, Kommersant, Osipova gave the same reason for her move from the Mikhailovsky to the Royal as she did for her move from the Bolshoi to the Mikhailovsky: repertoire. “I really would like to soak up the choreography that I haven’t yet mastered—ballets by Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan. It’s great that I can work with the company’s chief guest choreographers—with Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor, as well as the stunning young choreographer Liam Scarlett. This is a great chance.”
One controversial aspect of Osipova’s move to the Royal Ballet is how it will affect her relationship with American Ballet Theatre, where she also holds a principal dancer contract, with commitments running through the 2014 season. Sergei Danilian, Osipova’s agent, was quoted on Monday in Kommersant, saying that ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie “did not hide his frustration, as the spring season in London coincides with New York, but this is a new reality that will have to be dealt with somehow. It is difficult to say how it will be settled, but the fact remains that there are conflicting interests, and we will hope for the wisdom of the leaders of the two companies to settle it.”
In the Kommersant interview, Osipova, who has previously danced as a guest artist with the Royal Ballet, said that she will go on performing with the Mikhailovsky Ballet, as a guest artist, and that she will continue to dance with ABT. “ABT is a part of my life, but I am happy with the relationship that I have with them. I go there, dance at the Metropolitan, and leave,” she said, according to a translation of the interview.
To see the original story, visit http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/russian-ballerina-natalia-osipova-joins-londons-royal-ballet/.
The Associated Press reports that former Major League Baseball catcher Mike Piazza will be taking center stage with the Miami City Ballet.
The Miami Beach-based dance company has tapped Piazza to play the role of a gangster in the May 3 production of George Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.
Piazza won’t be dancing in tights. He’ll wear a 1920s-era gangster costume, say a few lines, and then watch the rest of the performance from a seat onstage.
Piazza says his turn with the troupe is his gift to his 6-year-old daughter, a student at Miami City Ballet School.
The ballet features gangsters, strippers, and an attempted murder plot. It originally appeared as part of the 1930s musical On Your Toes.
Piazza had 427 career home runs and made 12 All-Star Game appearances.
If there is a single work that captures the essence of America in sound and movement, it’s “Appalachian Spring,” the ballet with music by Aaron Copland and choreography by Martha Graham that premiered in 1944.
The Baltimore Sun reports that since last fall, students at the Baltimore School for the Arts have been delving into the ballet from every angle, preparing for “An Appalachian Spring Festival,” an interdisciplinary project that includes an art exhibit, a concert, and panel discussions.
This marks the first time that the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance has granted permission to a high school to produce the ballet in its original form.
Auditions were held months ago to fill the eight roles in the ballet (two casts were chosen, allowing for alternating performances) and to form the small orchestra. “The ballet fits young dancers, and the music fits young people, too,” said Chris Ford, director of the Baltimore School for the Arts.
Throughout the school year, others joined in the adventure. Student designers and technicians have re-created the original set by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, whose strikingly minimalist design became an integral part of the ballet.
Two veterans of the New York-based Martha Graham Dance Company have been regular visitors to the school, providing the finishing touches on the project. Principal dancer Miki Orihara, a company member since 1987, is guiding the ballet students through their moves. Peabody Institute and Yale University alum Aaron Sherber, music director of the Graham company since 1998, is conducting the student orchestra for the ballet performances.
Some of BSA’s Appalachian Spring Festival events include the opening of an exhibit of student art work inspired by Appalachian Spring, April 8 at 4pm; performance by student musicians of chamber works by Copland and his contemporaries, April 10 at 7pm. Tickets are $5 to $10.
Appalachian Spring will be performed by student dancers and musicians Friday, April 12 at 7pm. Tickets are $10 to $15.
All events will be held at Baltimore School for the Arts, 712 Cathedral Street, Baltimore. For more information and full listing of events visit http://www.bsfa.org/54/about-bsa/news-interior.
To see the full story visit http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/arts/artsmash/bs-ae-appalachian-spring-20130406,0,1092269.story?page=1.
Six dancers who defected last month from the National Ballet of Cuba, one of the country’s proudest and most prestigious institutions, auditioned at a Miami ballet group last week, reported Reuters.
“They are so talented and we are thrilled to see them,” said Pedro Pablo Pena, founder of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, a nonprofit dance organization.
After an intense two-hour workout, the dancers explained that they were looking to advance their careers outside communist-led Cuba, where dancers enjoy privileged lives but earn modest salaries of $10 to $30 a month plus bonuses for foreign tours.
“Our goal is to train hard to achieve our dream of dancing and helping our families economically in Cuba,” said Annie Ruiz Diaz, 24, who began dancing in Cuba at age 6 and had been with the National Ballet for almost seven years. The defectors are staying with friends and relatives in Miami until they can find work. One of the dancers stayed behind in Mexico with friends, they said.
The National Ballet of Cuba confirmed last week that seven members of the group had abandoned the company while touring in Mexico last month. The dancers said they made their way to the U.S. border, where they were allowed entry under the Cuban Adjustment Act, which grants special immigration privileges to Cuban exiles as well as financial benefits to help them get on their feet.
To see the full story, visit http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/04/us-cuba-ballet-usa-idUSBRE9330YC20130404.
The Connecticut Classic 2013, an annual weekend of ballet classes and competition run by the Dance Alliance of Connecticut, has announced its winners.
Judges for the March event were Stephanie Saland, Flavio Salazar, and Tamara King.
Senior Top Ten winners were: Jack Sprance (gold medal), Nutmeg Conservatory of the Arts; Gabrielle Collins (silver medal), Hartt School Community Division; Katherine Kurata (bronze medal), New England Ballet; Eugenie Chen, Hartt School Community Division; Marissa Dembek, Connecticut Concert Ballet; Danielle Dorsch, American Youth Ballet; Emily Dylewski, Connecticut Concert Ballet; Maggie Powderly, Main Street Ballet; Solana Snow, Hartt School Community Division; and Rowan Young, The Ballet Lab.
Junior Top Ten winners were: Samantha Howe (gold medal), Connecticut Concert Ballet; Claire Hutchinson (silver medal), Hartt School Community Division; Theo Pilette (bronze medal), Lebanon School of Ballet; Alexis Aiudi, Hartt School Community Division; Isabelle Breier, Valentina Kozlova’s Dance Conservatory of New York; Avery Lasky, New England Ballet; Patricia Lui, Main Street Ballet; Taylor O’Conner, Dancin’ in the Spotlight; Damiano Scarfi, Woodbury Ballet Academy; and Marissa Ward, Hartt School Community.
Scholarships included: Boston Ballet School (full tuition), Theo Pilette; Joffrey Ballet (full tuition) Young Dancer program, Alexis Aiudi; Joffrey Ballet (full tuition) Summer Intensive, Avery Lasky; American Ballet Theater, Austin, Texas (full tuition), Jack Sprance; Atlanta Ballet (full tuition), Gabrielle Collins; Atlanta Ballet (full tuition), Damiano Scarfi; Burklyn Ballet Theatre (full tuition), Danielle Dorsch; Burklyn Ballet Theatre (full tuition), Katherine Kurata;
Bolshoi Ballet Academy SI (50 percent tuition), Claire Hutchinson; Interlochen Center for the Arts, Michigan (full tuition), Samantha Howe; BalletMet Academy of Dance, Columbus, Ohio (full tuition), Rowan Young; Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts (full tuition), Eugenie Chen;
New Haven Ballet (full tuition), Maggie Powderly; and Hartt School Community Division, Hartford (50 percent tuition), Emily Dylewski.
Also, “For Eva” Dance Education Scholarship in Memory of Eva Block ($500), Marissa Ward; Magna Physical Therapy and Dance Medicine Center Performing Arts Scholarship ($500), Isabelle Breier; and Lorraine Shupe Memorial Scholarship ($200), Kathryn Manger and Andrew Matte.
Nevada Ballet Theatre (NBT) has begun a national search for the position of director of the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre, Las Vegas.
With more than 400 students, the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre is the official school of NBT and is guided by a philosophy of commitment to classical ballet tradition. Founded in 1979, the academy offers training in all forms of dance for students 18 months of age through adult.
The director will oversee the school’s student body and faculty. Other duties include teaching, developing class and course schedules, establishing policies and procedures, interacting with parents, students and administrative staff, and producing the annual spring concert.
Ballet West’s upcoming golden anniversary season will include world premieres, a major revival, and longtime favorites, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.
“I have designed our 50th-anniversary season to honor the past, celebrate the present, and keep an eye on the future,” Adam Sklute, Ballet West artistic director, said in a news release announcing the schedule.
The season will open with a revival of founder Willam Christensen’s colorful and dramatic The Firebird, running November 8 and 9 and 13 to 16 at Kingsbury Hall, the birthplace of the company 50 years ago.
The rest of the 2013-2014 season includes:
• The Nutcracker: November 29 to December 28; includes a version of The Nutty Nutcracker on December 30
• The Sleeping Beauty: February 7, 8, and 12-15
• The Rite of Spring (world premiere) by resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte: April 11, 12, and 16-19
• Innovations 2014 (world premiere): May 16, 17, and 21-24
For more information, visit www.balletwest.org. To see the original story, visit http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/entertainment2/56068834-223/ballet-season-west-anniversary.html.csp.
There’s been a sudden change in top command at the Joffrey Ballet. The Chicago Business Journal reports that Kathleen Heckinger, the company’s chief financial and administrative officer, will take over shortly as interim executive director.
Christopher Clinton Conway, executive director since 2007, is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities, presumably on the west coast. Ashley Wheater will continue as artistic director.
In an interview Thursday, Heckinger said the Joffrey is in remarkably good financial shape, especially considering that many not-for-profit arts organization are dealing with cutbacks in both contributed and earned income.
The Joffrey is currently operating with a $16 million annual budget. Hometown performances such as The Nutcracker have been selling well this season, and the Joffrey is just now concluding a robust touring schedule—visiting 22 cities nationwide this year, compared to the 10 to 12 markets it has typically toured to each year.
The Joffrey also generates considerable income from its dance academy, which now has a whopping 1,000 students enrolled. The Joffrey offers a special three to five week dance study program each summer that attracts students from around the world. Heckinger also is particularly happy the Joffrey owns, debt free, two floors in a city-center modern high-rise office tower that was dubbed the Joffrey Tower in 2008 when it opened.
To see the original story, visit http://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/news/2013/03/21/joffrey-ballet-names-kathleen.html.
When dancers say they are not being challenged in class, what that really means is that they aren’t working hard enough. Ballet is the art of exactness. For a dancer to perform a simple glissade correctly, the demi-plié, stretched feet, and upper body must be correct. From the basic elements of ballet, complex steps can follow—but only if the basics are correct.
My teacher in London, Anna (Severskaya) Northcote, used to say, “Dance with your head.” She meant to think about the step, and also that the head is perhaps the most important part of a dancer. Even though few people could boast of the technical abilities of Margot Fonteyn, audiences watched her head and face for nuances in a movement. Both conveyed an emotion or her joy in ballet to every person in the theater.
Enchanted Evening, Kennedy Dance Theatre’s upcoming concert presented by Ballet Jeté and KDT’s Vaganova Ballet Department, will showcase new original choreography from choreographer and KDT ballet mistress Milena Leben, former prima ballerina with the Croatian National Theatre.
The show will present neo-classical, jazz, and contemporary routines; classical variations from Sleeping Beauty and La Sylphide, among others; plus a special moment when all aspiring ballerinas are invited onstage to meet their favorite ballerina and be crowned a princess. Partial proceeds from the concert will be donated to Texas Children’s Hospital.
Ballet Jeté is made up of students of Kennedy Dance Theatre in Webster, Texas, who aspire to become professional dancers, or to continue on in their study of dance at the university level. Those in the company are not only trained in technique, but also learn about famous choreographers, the history of ballet, and how to set themselves apart as performers.
Company members were featured in KDT’s Nutcracker, competed at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), and will be performing at Dance Houston’s upcoming Youth Festival at the Hobby Center. Members include Caroline Senter, Sarah Neisler, Abbey Menard, Emi Houghton, Michelle McKay, Cherilene Guzman, Erica Carmona, Lizzie Clements, Kaitlyn Akes, Bethany Curtis, Rohini Kambhampati, and Melanie Mills.
Enchanted Evening will be held April 27 at 6pm at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Bayou Theatre, Houston, Texas. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 281.480.8441, or visit www.kennedydance.com.
Review Your Cues
As each semester begins, I often re-explain the cues that play like the soundtrack of my class. Phrases like “dance taller,” or “engage the abdominals,” and the more personalized “long toes,” or “hollow your leg,” constitute a working language within my class. New students need time to understand what these cues mean. While cues will eventually allow the class to proceed more quickly, I understand that what I mean by “lifting up” may be a very different thing than it did for my students’ last teacher. Similarly, until I work physically and verbally with my students, “long toes” may have no meaning for someone who has worked for years to perfect a toe clench.
And time spent explaining the cues I will use throughout the semester is not time wasted for returning students, for whom the phrases sometimes lose power. Breaking them down may help returning students deepen their understanding of a standard classroom cue.
The beginning of the school year is an obvious time to establish your particular classroom language for new and returning students. However, we know students need to move in their first weeks of a class. Teachers need to capitalize on the enthusiasm students bring at the beginning of the year. If we do all the talking and explaining in the first weeks of class, students may pack their bags and look for a studio where they can “just dance.”
Understanding how and when to uncover all the information that is stored within each cue is where real teaching comes in. To allow students to grow and strengthen, take time throughout the class session to offer in-depth explorations of the concepts you are pinpointing.
It’s not just about inventing new cues, although that can be helpful. I simply suggest clarifying what individual cues mean and consistently providing students with the information they need to absorb and incorporate them.
Make It Personal
Using personal analogies can help students understand ballet concepts. Sometimes giving instructions and corrections in terms of friends and family can give them a fresh way to think about these ideas.
When at the barre, I sometimes say, “Use the barre as if it is your favorite partner. You don’t want to hurt him. Use a gentle hold; don’t dig your fingers into him or lean on him and make him fall down.”
I tell them, “Your face contains some of the strongest muscles in your body, and they’re very expressive. But don’t let them show the work the rest of your body is doing. No one wants to see how hard ballet is, so don’t show it on your face. What if the meanest mean girl—the most competitive person you know—was watching you? Would you want her to know how hard this is?”
If they’re jumping or doing relevé, I’ll say, “Spread your toes out on the floor and then push down against the floor like you are mad at it when you relevé or jump.”
In croisé, I remind them: “Make sure not to over-cross. Pretend you’re in the theater and your brother and sister are sitting on opposite sides because they just had an argument. So you need to show a good position to house left, where your brother is sitting, and house right, where your sister is sitting.”
When dancers start to slack off, I’ve been known to liken ballet to a new outfit that’s going to fit them really well, be comfortable, and look fabulous: “Your mom’s not going to buy it for you,” I say. “You have to work for it and earn it yourself.”
More than 800 dancers, teachers, choreographers, and observers from 18 member dance companies will be on hand for 2013 Regional Dance America/Southeast Regional Ballet Association’s annual festival, “Celebrating the South’s Finer Pointes,” May 2 to 4 in downtown Jackson, Mississippi.
WJTV News Channel 12 reported that Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet will host the festival and welcome dancers and others hailing from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Georgia. The RDA/SERBA festival provides advanced educational and performing opportunities for dance students ages 11 to 18 with a serious commitment to their arts education.
The May 2 Opening Celebration will include a performance by Sarah Lane, American Ballet Theatre soloist and USA International Ballet Competition 2002 silver medalist, who was Natalie Portman’s dance double in the film Black Swan. Lane will also conduct question and answer sessions with RDA/SERBA festival participants at the Jackson Marriott Hotel.
Tickets are available to the public for the Gala Concert Performance May 4 at 7pm at Thalia Mara Hall. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased by calling 601.853.4508. Individuals wishing to observe festival classes and attend seminars and performances can purchase a Festival Kit for one, two, or three days by contacting festival coordinators Jennifer Beasley or Crystal Skelton at 601.853.4508 or www.msmetroballet.com/serba.
To see the original story, visit http://www.wjtv.com/story/21719589/2013-southeast-regional-ballet-association-festival.
Left Photo by Bing Gordon; right photo courtesy ODC School
A San Francisco school helps teens navigate the path to college dance programs
By Lisa Okuhn
The quiet midafternoon hum of San Francisco’s ODC Dance Commons’ lobby slowly ratchets up to a low roar as a swarm of young dancers, many of them teens, gathers before dispersing into the classrooms. And like thousands of high-schoolers around the country, many of these dancers face the college admissions process, a challenge—to put it mildly—for any teen. At ODC, a program called Next Steps is there to help.
Students who plan to dance in college face a unique set of hurdles. First they must find schools that offer the balance of dance training and academics that best suits their needs. Then there are the auditions held by many schools. Add to that the solos many require, performed live or on video. Taking it one step further, the University of Michigan has an additional requirement: pre-screening audition combinations, a set of short ballet and contemporary phrases posted online that dancers perform verbatim on camera. U Michigan faculty reviews the videos before even inviting an applicant to a live audition. With all this, even the most ambitious high-school dancer is likely to feel overwhelmed.
Stepping into the breach
ODC School’s Youth & Teen Program offers contemporary, ballet, hip-hop, global, tap, flamenco, boys, young creative, and performance classes to around 900 students ages 2 to 18 each year. A little more than three years ago, the faculty and staff observed that the school’s teens needed help navigating the demanding college application process.
“We were getting lots of questions from teens who wanted to get into college dance programs,” says Kimi Okada, ODC School’s director and ODC associate choreographer. “And with all the options—conservatory schools like Juilliard, Tisch [New York University’s School of the Arts], Ailey/Fordham, and SUNY Purchase; myriad choices of colleges and universities that have dance majors, and many that don’t offer dance majors but have dance programs—people were trying to figure out what they should even look at.”
Next Steps staff can guide parents through a landscape that may seem entirely foreign, helping them understand the intricacies of auditions, video requirements, even the basics of dance language.
But choosing a college is by no means the only challenge. Once they’ve selected the colleges to which they’ll apply, students then have to tackle the application requirements, which often vary from school to school. “[At one,] the solo can’t be longer than a minute,” Okada says, ticking them off on her fingers. “[At another it’s] two minutes. It needs to have X, Y, and Z in it. There are different specifications. We were getting a lot of requests, mostly from our Dance Jam members [ODC’s teen dance company] for help in preparing all these materials.”
ODC faculty scrambled to fill students’ needs on a case-by-case basis as dancers asked teachers to choreograph and help rehearse their solos. “There were all these independent relationships going on with our faculty,” Okada says. “It was really confusing. We realized we needed to centralize this, make this a service. That’s really how the program began.”
Next Steps faculty and staff also recognized the critical role they could play in helping students keep the process on track. “This is a gross generalization,” Okada says, “but a lot of teens don’t have a lot of the skills to keep up with everything. We’d get these requests, like ‘Oh, I need this next week.’ And it’s like, ‘You have to have something choreographed and filmed and your deadline is next week. Are you kidding?’ We realized these guys need help; they need help organizing what they need and when they need it.”
Several organizations around the country offer information sessions for college-bound dancers, and there are private admissions consultants who specialize in helping students gain admission into college arts programs. Next Steps does both, offering teen dancers a comprehensive system of support from teachers, mentors, and staff who know them, in most cases quite well. (The program has also helped some younger students as they apply to summer intensives and arts-oriented high schools.)
Next Steps holds an annual seminar designed for teens and their parents. Last year’s seminar, held in late August, was conducted by Okada along with Susan Weber, a certified college advisor who has danced with Lar Lubovitch, serves as associate artistic director of Berkeley Ballet Theater, and assists Mark Morris when he creates works for San Francisco Ballet; and Leslie Wax, a social worker at the International Studies Academy, and the daughter of modern-dance choreographer Margaret Jenkins. Normally, ODC co-artistic director KT Nelson also participates, but was unable to do so this year.
Seminar attendees are given a list of colleges and universities that have dance programs, and guidance about what to look for. “We tell them, ‘Don’t judge a place by its website,’ ” Okada says. “ ‘Look at the faculty, the guest artists. Do the research. And immediately find out what the application process is for each school. Go visit.’ ”
Current students or recent graduates from a wide range of college dance departments talk about their experiences. This year’s participants were from Ailey/Fordham, University of the Arts (in Philadelphia), University of Illinois, Stanford, and Bard. The floor is opened up for questions, and the teens have an opportunity to talk to the college students one-on-one.
Seminar attendees leave with an overview of the application process and a menu of the fee-based services Next Steps offers, which include an initial consultation, follow-up consults if needed, partnership with a choreographer for audition/video-submission pieces, individual coaching, videographer services, assistance with scheduling rehearsal time and studio rental, editing services, and providing a finished DVD master recording.
Students can choose to use any or all of these services, depending on their needs. Okada estimates that utilizing everything Next Steps offers would cost approximately $700.
So far about a dozen teens have participated in Next Steps. Of the four seniors enrolled in ODC’s Youth and Teen program this year, three are following in the footsteps of Next Steps successful alumni. Current Stanford senior Doria Charlson was one of the first participants. Emma Lanier, who, like Charlson, took advantage of Next Steps’ full arsenal of services, is now a freshman at Skidmore College.
During the initial consultation, the teen and her parents—armed with a list of potential schools and their requirements—meet with Okada and Nelson to create a plan.
If the student needs a solo choreographed, Okada says, she and Nelson “match them with a choreographer who we feel [can] show them off to their best advantage. We use members of our faculty, many of whom are choreographers.” And since most Next Steps participants have studied at ODC for some time, “the faculty know the students well, understand their strengths and weaknesses,” explains Okada. “In the consultation I ask them, ‘Whose movement style do you really connect to? Who can really show how well you can dance?’ They usually know right away.”
Faculty and outside choreographers who have worked with Next Steps dancers include Nelson, former ODC dancers Brian Fisher and Tammy Cheney, Katy Barnhill, Amy Foley, and Robert Moses’ Kin dancer Dexandro Montalvo.
Senior Anna Boyer, who has trained at ODC for six years and danced with Dance Jam for four, utilized all of Next Steps’ services to apply to eight colleges, including the University of Michigan. To help her with the required ballet and contemporary pre-screening videos, Next Steps set up coaching sessions with Fisher and ODC School ballet director Augusta Moore.
“Augusta was great,” Boyer says. “She told me what to pay attention to, what professional dancers look for, what they’ll say about this little part. She was very good about keeping a balance between me pushing myself to be something that I’m not, but still showing all the technique I really do have.” Fisher offered much the same kind of help, “only through the lens of a modern teacher,” Boyer says.
For her two-minute solo, Boyer was paired with Montalvo, who teaches in the LINES/Dominican BFA program as well as at ODC. Next Steps found Boyer a videographer, but some students enlist a tech- or video-savvy parent or friend and avoid the $100 fee.
Throughout the process, Next Steps staff can guide parents through a landscape that may seem entirely foreign, helping them understand the intricacies of auditions, video requirements, even the basics of dance language, at a time when teens are not always inclined to be helpful. “They wonder what all of this means. Some of them have no idea what contemporary is,” says ODC Youth and Teen Program registrar and outreach coordinator Liz Kamara. “And the kid is like, ‘M-o-o-m-m!’ We’re like a middleman to help buffer their relationship; we can explain things, parents can ask questions, and the mother–kid relationship is less dramatic.”
Equally important is the large web of connections the ODC dance community has in the dance world. “We can usually find somebody from these colleges who can talk to the students about their experience,” Okada says. And knowing faculty at various schools may help get applicants on the radar. “We know people at these universities, colleges, and conservatories,” Okada says. “We can call and give them a heads up—‘Hey we have a really great student applying,’ or we can say, ‘Would you mind having a conversation with them?’ We use our connections in whatever appropriate manner that there is; mainly it’s for communication and information.”
ODC also hosts many colleges’ Bay Area auditions, an advantage for Next Steps participants, says Kamara, “because our students feel confident in our space.”
Next Steps plans to implement an audition component next year, one that will offer instruction on auditioning successfully. “How do you audition, from the minute you walk in the door?” Okada says. “What’s the best strategy for being seen well? Not being a wallflower in the back, but not being so pushy nobody wants to look at you. How to be respectful, there, present; how do you get noticed?”
A crucial (and for Boyer the most helpful and important) aspect of Next Steps is that the faculty and staff “really put an effort into getting to know the people they’re working with,” says Boyer. Okada and Nelson offer an enormous amount of artistic guidance, she says, and “Liz has been so helpful, checking in and saying, ‘OK, I checked with the school you’re applying to and it looks like they need this.’ The support is very strong. They’re very dedicated to helping the dancers stay on top of everything.”
One afternoon in late September, still deeply engaged in the application process, Boyer and 14 fellow students took Montalvo’s advanced modern class. As if she had put aside all her worries about SATs, Common Application essays, and audition solos, Boyer was focused and intense as she swept a leg across her body, arms snaking over and around her head. Sinking into a deep, undulating plié, she pulled up into a sharp, still, second-position relevé.
With help from Next Steps, this high school senior seems to be on top of it all.
For authentic Vaganova training, head to St. Petersburg
By Joshua Bartlett
Until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, Russian methods of classical ballet training remained something of a mystery. Only those dancers who had defected from the Soviet Union, such as Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, or who had emigrated prior to the formation of the Soviet Union, could share their wisdom. Now Americans and Russians move freely across continents and cultures, learning old and new styles of teaching and choreography. Exemplifying that newfound freedom is the Vaganova International Method Conference/Demonstration.
Held every year in June in St. Petersburg during the White Nights Festival (this year, June 20 through 30, which includes two days for assimilation, before and after the scheduled events), the conference welcomes foreigners to Russia to see firsthand how dancers are trained through the eight levels of the Vaganova syllabus. Over the course of eight days, participants study classroom activity, attend performances by the Vaganova Academy’s graduates and the Mariinsky Ballet, and take in the cultural offerings of St. Petersburg.
“The conference was initiated by teachers from different countries who arrived in 1995 to participate in the International Vaganova Prix Competition,” says Olga Abramova, Vaganova Ballet Academy’s deputy principal for foreign relations. “They wanted to understand the Russian system of ballet education, which is the Vaganova method. So for that occasion we organized some instruction and demonstrations for the teachers.”
Liezl Austria, who has taught ballet at San Francisco’s ODC School for seven years and at Alonzo King LINES Dance Center for 11 years, has attended the Vaganova Conference yearly since 2010. After taking John White’s Vaganova teaching seminars at Bryn Mawr College, she wanted to deepen her knowledge. “I needed something that would give me the step-by-step process to teach the kids,” says Austria. “The conference is pretty much open to anyone. Most are teachers, but there are also writers, painters, and artists—people from Oregon, L.A., and Minneapolis.”
Vaganova fought for the preservation of the legacy of the Imperial Ballet and instituted a systematic method of training that was meant to strengthen and protect young dancers’ bodies as they grew.
Each day of the conference is packed with activities, including observing examination classes, in which all the elements required for a student to enter the next level are demonstrated. Levels 1 through 8 of the Vaganova syllabus are taught by renowned Vaganova professors, with demonstrations by students in all grades. Included in the curriculum are classical ballet, character, historical dances (such as waltzes, minuets, and pavanes), and variations. There are graduation performances for the senior-level students and performances by the Mariinsky Ballet.
Additionally, the conference features symposiums on dance theory, dance psychology and nutrition, musical accompaniment for ballet lessons, and injury prevention. Guided tours of the city include visits to the legendary State Hermitage Museum and the Catherine Palace.
So who was Vaganova and why is her teaching method so relevant today?
Agrippina Vaganova (1879–1951) studied at the Imperial Ballet School, established in 1738 during the reign of Empress Anna, and danced with the Imperial Ballet. She began teaching in 1916. Determined to dissect and understand ballet technique, she developed her own method of instruction, which incorporated the Italian, French, and Danish techniques taught at the Imperial Ballet School.
After the 1917 Russian Revolution, Vaganova fought for the preservation of the legacy of Marius Petipa, Enrico Cecchetti, and the Imperial Ballet and instituted a systematic method of training that was meant to strengthen and protect young dancers’ bodies as they grew.
In 1934 her book, Basic Principles of Classical Ballet, was published in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Among her students were Galina Ulanova, Natalia Dudinskaya, and Maya Plisetskaya. In 1933, she staged the renowned version of Swan Lake with Ulanova as Odette-Odile. Later graduates of the Vaganova Academy included Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Makarova, Yuri Soloviev, Irina Kolpakova, Diana Vishneva, Svetlana Zakharova, and Altynai Asylmuratova, the current artistic director of the Vaganova Academy.
Dennis Mullen, a former dancer with Santa Clara Ballet, has attended the conference every year since 1999. Now a professor of business at City College of San Francisco and a board member of Classical Dance Alliance, Mullen also teaches and coaches ballet privately. He particularly enjoys watching the examination classes.
“Everyone is amazed at the elegance of the rendering in the examination classes, which are age-appropriate for each level,” says Mullen. “Sometimes American training introduces steps beyond age-appropriateness, like fouettés at age 12 for girls or double air tours before 14 for boys. The body has to solidify the muscles. You really have to be careful about what is being selected.”
As an example of the methodology of the Russian system, Mullen cites the six port de bras of the Vaganova method that are introduced at the barre and in center work at various levels. “One thing we especially notice as Americans is the development of the fourth arabesque in Russian dancers, such a beautiful line,” says Mullen. (In fourth arabesque, the dancer stands in croisé with the right foot in front and the right arm extended front and the left arm extended to the back in line with the right arm. With an elegant épaulement, the dancer’s focus is turned to the audience.)
“[In America] we’re often introduced to it as late teens or adults as a full fourth arabesque line,” Mullen continues. “At the Vaganova Academy, they take a very careful approach in levels 2 and 3 to gently, standing at the barre, adjust the upper torso into that position.” He describes it as a subtle twisting motion of the torso with the hips squared; the shoulder blades are spread and then the arms and head of the épaulement and the tendu arabesque position are added. “Those six integrated port de bras [appear in everything] you see in the classical repertoire,” he adds.
Implementing the technique
Abramova says that it is certainly possible for foreign teachers to incorporate the principles of Vaganova training into their teaching practice. “I am sure that everything comes step by step,” she says. “By gradually learning, practicing, and receiving good advice, the results will come.” This implies that, even though Vaganova is an integral technique, its individual principles are so sound that they can be introduced by teachers of different training backgrounds through diligence and persistence.
Abramova has recommended the conference to teachers from many continents. “The method is practiced in many schools of the world,” she says. “If the sequence or presentation is wrong, there may be a different result from what we have at the Vaganova Ballet Academy. As one of the conference participants said, ‘You have exported hundreds of wonderful dancers, but the method is still here, in Russia.’ ”
Marlene Turbin-Weldon, director of Academie de la Danse in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, has been teaching ballet for nearly 40 years and attended the Vaganova conference for three years between 2001 and 2004. Although she incorporates various techniques, such as Cecchetti and RAD, into her curriculum, she starts out her youngest ballet students with straight Vaganova technique.
“What benefited me most as a teacher attending the conference was seeing the precision of the execution of the movement,” says Turbin-Weldon. “The progression made totally logical sense. It was so clear to see the progression in the syllabus from year to year. I was fairly new to the Vaganova method, and that was the place to see it in its purest form.” In one session’s discussion, she recalls a 45-minute explanation of the proper execution of grand rond de jambe jeté alone.
According to Austria, attending the conferences has absolutely changed her approach to teaching. “Whenever I come back from Russia, the students notice the combinations are fuller or maybe the musicality is different,” she says. “I’ve learned how they put the combinations together—the musicality and the dynamics. It really has helped me a lot. That’s why I go back [to the conference]. It’s like going to a ballet. I’ve seen Giselle many times, but I still keep going back to see it because of the learning process.”
As an example of the Vaganova use of musicality, Austria points to the anacrusis, the note or notes that precede the first downbeat in a bar of music, sometimes referred to as the upbeat. (The anacrusis in the song “Happy Birthday to You” is the “Happy,” followed by the downbeat “Birthday.”) After doing warm-up tendus in first position facing the barre, students at the lower levels are given tendus in fifth position in a specific musical sequence. Using the upbeat to tendu, the leg and foot close into fifth position on the downbeat (and-ah one, hold fifth position for two counts). Holding the fifth position helps stabilize the position for younger bodies. The anacrusis is used even more intensely in the higher-level Vaganova classes to reinforce the strengthening of technique.
At the conference
A highlight of the Vaganova conference is the option to attend master classes, which conference participants can either take or observe. Marina Vasilieva’s classes are particularly popular, as are character classes given by other teachers. “It’s a nice hands-on moment for us,” says Mullen. “It gives us a sense of experiencing the raked studios and an opportunity to ask questions. When we see observation classes, we can ask a few questions, but usually in the master classes we can specifically ask how, for example, fourth arabesque is done and why.”
In past years the graduation performances have included fully staged excerpts from La Bayadère, Le Corsaire, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Little Humpbacked Horse. Graduating couples have danced pas de deux from Giselle, La Fille mal gardée, La Sylphide, and Chopiniana. And this year the graduates performed a contemporary ballet, Madrigal, by Nacho Duato.
Turbin-Weldon highly recommends that teachers interested in Vaganova training attend the conference. “I believe that if you want to see classical ballet in its purest form, you need to see the very roots where this method started,” she says. “I believe that the Vaganova method is the purest form of classical dance. There is so much to be gained by seeing it in person; a video doesn’t do it justice.”
Abramova says that one of the greatest benefits of the conference is the interconnectedness it bestows on the ballet world. “We have received teachers from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Argentina, Japan, and lots of other countries,” she says. “The teachers can discuss the development of ballet education methods, exchange their experiences, and develop contacts. This is what brings unity and progress to the world of education.”
How to Plan Your Trip
St. Petersburg Travel, Inc. handles package tours to the conference. The price for this year’s package is $2,747 per person, based on double occupancy in a three-star hotel. (Airfare and visa fee are not included.) Room upgrades for single occupancy or newly renovated rooms is extra.
Included in the price are all conference events, buffet breakfast and lunch or dinner, tea breaks at the Vaganova Academy during conference events, an itinerary of cultural sightseeing, transportation in private buses, tour guides, English translators, and one Mariinsky Ballet performance. (In 2011, the Mariinsky performed Balanchine’s Jewels; in other years attendees have seen Giselle and Don Quixote.) There are also opportunities to buy tickets to performances by other companies.
The application deadline is April 16, 2013. For more information visit trips2russia.com/grouptol2.html, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1.800.980.2618.
Chicago National Association of Dance Masters offers several resource books on its website that can be used by dance educators to structure classes and brush up on technique and training.
• CNADM’s Introductory Modern Dance Teaching Manual by John Lehrer and Matthew Farmer, featuring expert advice on teaching floor work for every level of expertise, references and terminology, and history of Modern Dance. The volume includes a DVD containing floor work contractions and slow-motion demos of across-the-floor combinations.
• CNADM’s Classical Ballet Teaching Manual by Terrell Paulk, featuring expert advice on teaching barre and center floor exercise, steps in the center, and pointe work, plus ballet terminology.
• CNADM’s Jazz Dance Teaching Manual 2nd Edition by Tom Ralabate, featuring expert advice in teaching jumps, kicks, and leaps, plus body isolations; music style; improvisation; and jazz choreography.
Copies are $25 each for CNADM members and $35 each for non-members. To place an online order, visit http://cnadm.com/education-materials.php.
Ballet’s Greatest Hits, a Youth America Grand Prix Gala filmed in January and showcasing many of today’s biggest stars in classic ballets, will be broadcast by Emerging Pictures in cinemas across the country on March 31 and April 2.
The film includes excerpts from Don Quixote, Flames of Paris, Giselle, La Bayadère, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake, performed by stars such as Ashley Bouder (New York City Ballet), Marcelo Gomes (American Ballet Theatre), Greta Hodgkinson (National Ballet of Canada), Matthew Golding (Dutch National Ballet), Alejandro Virelles (Boston Ballet), and Maria Kochetkova (San Francisco Ballet).
The live performance of Ballet’s Greatest Hits took place at the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida, on January 5. Hosted by American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, Ballet’s Greatest Hits also offers exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, rare archival materials, and exclusive interviews with choreographers, film producers, critics, and luminaries of the dance world, such as Alexei Ratmansky, Benjamin Millepied, Edward Villella, and many others.
For cinemas and show times, visit
The Dance Institute of Washington will hold auditions for its professional dance company, The Washington Reflections, April 20 at 3:30pm at the studio, 3400 14th Street NW, Washington, DC.
Dancers ages 18 to 28 with strong dance backgrounds are invited to try out for this ballet/modern-based dance ensemble. Audition fee is $25. To pre-register, call 202.371.9656. To view videos of the company in action, visit http://www.danceinstitute.org/?page=wreflectionsvideo.
Founder and artistic director Fabian Barnes established the Dance Institute of Washington in 1987 after a 15-year career as a soloist with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Beginning as a summer intensive dance program for DC’s underserved youth. DIW had expanded to a year-round pre-professional school with education outreach initiatives throughout the city by 1993. Now DIW offers a full year of studio classes, outreach programs, and public performances by its students, Youth Repertory Ensemble, and professional company, The Washington Reflections. For more information, visit http://www.danceinstitute.org/.
The Institute for Dance Education Arts Inc. will hold a three-day ballet tutorial with Bournonville master teacher Dinna Bjorn June 8 to 10 at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Natick, Massachusetts.
The year’s edition of the International Dance Teachers Seminar will include daily master class to take or audit; active analysis of barre and center technique, pointe work, and a ballet solo (Flower Festival in Genzano) taught with in-depth analysis of Bournonville technique.
Bjorn was the artistic director of the Finnish National Ballet (2002-2008), the Norwegian National Ballet (1990 to 2002), and Dinna Bjorn Dancers, a company she formed with Frank Andersen and soloists from the Royal Danish Ballet, which toured extensively throughout the world. She has taught and coached the works and technique of August Bournonville since 1975 and participated in Bournonville research and reconstructions internationally, and is the author of several articles on the Bournonville technique and legacy.
The Institute for Dance Education Arts Inc. is the umbrella organization for the American Ballet Competition and International Dance Teachers Seminars and is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the art and excellence of ballet education, teaching, and performance. For more information, visit www.americanballetcompetition.com.
Mill Ballet School in Lambertville, New Jersey, held a self-esteem and positive image event, “Crown Week,” during which students of all ages and abilities were encouraged to wear crowns, tiaras, or simply their favorite hats to class. The goal was to encourage each dancer to hold his or her head up high and celebrate what makes each student unique and special.
The idea was inspired by a conversation between Mill Ballet School co-founder Melissa Roxey and a pre-ballet student who expressed her desire to augment her required ballet leotard and tights with a crown.
“I realized that we needed to have a week where we celebrated the beauty in each and every one of us,” Roxey said. “The beauty of dance is striving for perfection. The challenge is learning that perfection is never attainable. Sometimes it is good to simply pause and remember how far we have come, to be proud of and confident in who we are, and to hold our heads up high!”
For more information, visit www.millballetschool.com.
This May, the Group Theatre Too (GTT) will present its sixth annual Choreographer’s Canvas, a one-night event featuring the works of more than 15 established and emerging choreographers from around the country.The Canvas, headed by GTT executive producer Justin Boccitto, will showcase many styles of dance including tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, theater dance, aerial, and swing dance. Since its inception, the Canvas has presented more than 65 choreographers, with more than 450 dancers performing to sellout houses.
This year’s event features choreography by Bobby Hedglin-Taylor, an aerial choreographer whose work is represented in the Broadway revival of Pippin, as well as Richard Hinds, who is the associate director of both Newsies and the upcoming Broadway revival of Jekyll and Hyde.
Other work will be presented by choreographers Michael Blevins, Justin Boccitto, Emily Bufferd, Pam Covas, Francesca Harper, Punchali Khanna Kumar, Merete Muenter, Derek Mitchell, Nicole Ohr, Sue Samuels, Jaime Shannon with Tony Fraser, Stephanie Sine, Jeanne Slater, and Broadway Dance Center’s teen company, AIM.
The 2013 Choreographer’s Canvas will be presented May 18 at 8:30pm at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, 248 West 60th Street (between Amsterdam and West End Avenue), New York City. Tickets are available at www.choreographerscanvas.com ($30 in advance/$35 at the door).
Inspired by movies such as Billy Elliot and reality TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance, 40 percent of students at the Australian Ballet School are now boys, reports The Daily Telegraph.
Ethan Slocomb, 11, a student at the school, first started dancing as a 3-year-old after attending his sister’s concert and now is about to perform professionally in the Australian Ballet’s Don Quixote. “The kids at school think it’s pretty cool and the teachers like it as well,” he said.
Australian Ballet artistic director David McAllister said the higher number of male enrollments had led to higher standards. “I guess even when I was auditioning for a job, if you had two legs and could put one foot in front of the other, you were pretty much in, but these days it’s just as competitive for the men as it is for the women,” he said.
The Australian Ballet School is an autonomous, not-for-profit organization that auditions and accepts students from all over urban and rural Australia and overseas based solely on talent and artistic potential, regardless of their financial circumstances.
A ballet depicting the history and culture of the Osage people, Wahzhazhe, will be performed March 20 to 23 at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, according to Indian Country Today. Free performances will be held daily at 3pm in the Rasmuson Theater, 1st level.
Wahzhazhe is a contemporary ballet that brings together Oklahoma history and culture; a reverence for classical ballet that was the legacy of two famous Osage ballerinas, Maria and Marjorie Tallchief; and the richness of Osage traditional music, dance, and textile arts. The set designs are accurate depictions of Osage lifestyles, and the costumes are based on traditional tribal clothing worn over the course of the past 200 years.
The ballet depicts the removal of the Osage people from their homelands, the boarding-school era, the discovery of oil on their reservation leading to both great wealth and tragedy, and the celebration of Osage life today.
Wahzhazhe is produced by Randy Tinker Smith and choreographed by Jenna Smith, both of Osage descent. For further details, visit http://nmai.si.edu/calendar/#/?i=9. To see the original story, visit http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/03/11/wahzhazhe-osage-ballet-national-museum-american-indian-148086.
A dancer from Gwinnett Ballet Theatre in Lawrenceville, Georgia, who competed in the Youth America Grand Prix southeastern semi-finals March 1 to 3 with a solo variation from Giselle did not dance alone.
Madison Greene, 13, who finished in the top 12 in the junior group, had drawn purple hearts inside her pointe shoes surrounding the initials of Anna Mott, 16, a fellow Gwinnett dancer suffering from pineoblastoma, a rare malignant brain tumor. “I put her initials in my shoes for YAGP because when I did, it felt like I had someone else on the stage with me,” Madison says. “I was dancing for Anna. I also said a prayer that I could perform well and show both Anna’s and my own love for dance. I know that she would have loved to be there, so for now I’ll just keep her with me in spirit.”
Ten Gwinnett Ballet Theatre dancers took part in the YAGP, with Madison and Abigrace Diprima, 17, advancing to the finals in New York City in April. Bianca Melidor, 16, finished in the top 24 in the senior classical ballet division. The additional participants were Claire Bockhop, Kendall Greene, Kenzie Martin, Nichole Polakowski, Cameron and Jordan Silas, and Madeline Whitehead. All Gwinnett Ballet Theatre competitors were under the direction of GBT artistic director Wade Walthall.
The Manassas [VA] Ballet Theatre’s March 9 and 10 performances of “La Boutique Fantasque & More” will feature a touching tribute to artistic director Amy Grant Wolfe’s son Colin, a 19-year-old Marine who was killed in action in 2006, just seven weeks into his first deployment to Iraq.
Prince William Today reported that the ballet Colin features nine MBT dancers who trace the story of the younger Wolfe’s short life—from childhood years spent playing Little League baseball, studying ballet, and learning his Sabbath prayers, through teen years marked by a heartfelt decision, made on September 11, 2001 when he was just 14, to serve his country and become a Marine.
The idea to commemorate Colin’s life and military service in dance was not something his mother said she’d thought about until last year, when she was making plans for the Virginia-based professional dance company’s March performance and had asked her longtime friend, Dallas-based composer Mark Menza, to produce original music for the show.
Menza suggested a patriotic tribute to the U.S. military and the young men and women who serve our nation. Wolfe liked that idea, and during a long walk on the beach during a family trip to South Carolina, the idea came to her: the patriotic piece should be about Colin.
“I just thought, here we are, nearly seven years later, and this seems like the right thing to do,” Wolfe said. “I thought this is our chance to take something really horrible and . . . create something of beauty that’s really enduring.”
Although Wolfe said she has had to hold herself at arm’s length emotionally at times during the hours of rehearsal and practice leading up to the performance, the process of creating a dance in Colin’s memory has been comforting.
“Actually, for me, it really brings Colin back to life,” she added. “Now I have something I can listen to that is Colin. Now there is something that I can watch that is Colin. . . . It makes it as if he is right here with me.”
Performances will be held March 9 at 7:30pm and March 10 at 3pm at Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, Virginia.
Three suspects, including a top ballet dancer, have reportedly confessed to carrying out a vicious sulfuric acid attack on Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the renowned Bolshoi Ballet, in January, according to ABC News.
Police said the three men each signed statements admitting their role in the plot. Russian television aired footage of a confession by Pavel Dmitrichenko, a leading soloist with the Bolshoi, who is believed to have been the mastermind. The other two men are believed to be the hooded attacker and his getaway driver. All three were detained on Tuesday and Dmitrichenko’s home was searched. According to the newspaper Izvestia, authorities used electronic surveillance to track the suspects using their cell phones.
“The motive for the crime lies in (Filin’s) hostile relations with Dmitrichenko connected to his work,” police said in a statement Wednesday, according to RIA Novosti. Dmitrichenko, who recently performed the lead role in a production of the Soviet-era ballet Ivan the Terrible, has been with the Bolshoi Ballet since 2002.
The statement did not elaborate on the nature of their dispute, but according to AFP, the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reported the two clashed after Dmitrichenko’s girlfriend, another up-and-coming Bolshoi dancer, was passed over for top roles.
Filin was once the Bolshoi’s principal dancer and was named artistic director in 2011 amid controversial competition for the job. He was splashed with acid outside his home in central Moscow on January 17 by a hooded assailant who then fled. Filin’s face was severely burned and he is currently in Germany as doctors work to restore his eyesight.
To read the full story, visit http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/03/bolshoi-ballet-dancer-confesses-to-acid-attack/.
Ballet Theatre of Maryland will present Frontier: The War of 1812, a live dance multi-media performance that captures the fiery independence of colonial America as it forges itself into a nation.
Set to David Arkenstone’s Emmy award-winning score, the production is inspired by the letters and memoirs of Dolley Madison (danced by ballet mistress Meagan Helman) to her husband, James Madison (danced by Brian Walker. The ballet depicts the major events of the war, beginning with the causes and declaration of war through the Burning of Washington to the Battle of Fort McHenry and the creation of the Star Spangled Banner.
The show is appropriate for all ages. It runs March 8 and 9 at 8pm at Theatre Project, 45 West Preston Street, Baltimore. Tickets are $20, $15 for seniors and artists, $10 for students.
For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.theatreproject.org.
American Ballet Theatre Studio Company and the graduate students of The Royal Ballet School will perform a shared bill at The Ailey Citigroup Theater on Tuesday, March 26, and Wednesday, March 27, at 7pm. Performances by ABT Studio Company will include George Balanchine’s Tarantella, Raymond Lukens’ Jerusalem Divertissement, and excerpts from Alexei Ratmansky’s Le Carnaval des Animaux and Paul Taylor’s Airs. The RBS repertory will include Sir Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody, Jiří Bubeníček’s Canon in D Major, excerpts from Maurice Bejart’s Seven Greek Dances, Ashley Page’s Larina Waltz, and the pas de deux from Le Corsaire.
The shared performances are part of an exchange, which began in 2003, between ABT Studio Company (formerly ABT II) and The Royal Ballet School. During past exchanges the companies have traveled to each other’s respective homes for performances, master classes, and training sessions with senior coaching staff. The two groups last participated in this exchange in 2012.
Tickets, priced at $20, are available at http://web.tututix.com. The Ailey Citigroup Theater is located at 405 W. 55th Street, New York City.
For more information on performances with The Royal Ballet School and ABT Studio Company, call the ABT Education Department at 212.477.3030 x3339.
Dance Class Music/Jay Distributors is offering special savings on two Karen MacIver classroom CDs during the month of March. Sale prices are $20 for Ballet Class No. 4 (#KM04C), and $17 for the preballet Kindergarten Kids (#KMKIDSC).
Other deals include a package price of $35 for Ballet Class No. 4 and Tatyana Featherman’s Firmare ballet class CD (#WFP802); and a package price of $55 for Kindergarten Kids, Henry Berg and Nina Pinzarrone’s preballet County Fair (#PN05C), and Judy Rice and Paul Lewis’ beginning ballet K-1 Kids! (#BB11C).
All above titles are also available individually at prices that are between 15 and 20 percent off regular prices. Offers are good through March 31. For details or to purchase, visit http://www.danceclassmusic.com/index.html.
BalletMet Columbus announced this week that internationally respected choreographer Edwaard Liang, former New York City Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater dancer, will become its new artistic director effective July 2013.
BalletMet Columbus started its search for a new artistic director last spring after former artistic director Gerard Charles announced he would leave to become the ballet master at Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. BalletMet Columbus board chair Mary Duffey said a search committee evaluated 80 applicants before offering the position to Liang. “Edwaard has committed to move to Columbus, and to our mission of engaging the community through quality performances, instruction, and education programs and creation of new work,” she said.
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, and raised in Marin County, California, Liang trained at Marin Ballet and the School of American Ballet, and was a 1993 medal winner at the Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition.
By 2002, after dancing with NYCB and in the Broadway cast of Fosse, Liang was invited by Jiři Kylián to become a member of Nederlands Dans Theater 1, and while with the company discovered his passion and love for choreography. Since then his works have been performed by the Bolshoi Ballet, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Ballet, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Shanghai Ballet, and Singapore Dance Theatre, and he has won numerous awards for his choreography including the 2006 National Choreographic Competition.
To see the full press release, visit https://www.balletmet.org/new-artistic-director.
Applications are still being accepted for the Mark Morris Dance Group Summer Intensive, open to both professional and pre-professional dancers ages 16 and older.
Intensives will be held June 24 to 29 in Pasadena, California, and June 24 to July 6 in Brooklyn, New York. Participants will study with current and former MMDG company members in daily classes including modern dance, ballet, Pilates, and MMDG repertory. Additional activities may include panel discussions, injury prevention seminars, and music workshops. Each session concludes in an informal repertory performance.
Interested applicants can submit a video or attend one of the following audition classes:
March 15, 11am, University of Illinois Dance Department, Urbana, Illinois; March 21, 7pm, University of Florida Performing Arts, Gainesville, Florida; April 27, time TBA, Pasadena [CA] Civic Auditorium; April 27, 2pm, Mark Morris Dance Center, Brooklyn, New York.
Early application rate (on or before April 19) is $325/one week or $600/two weeks. Final application rate (on or before May 17) is $350/one week or $650/two weeks. (The two week rates apply to the Brooklyn intensive only.)
For more information or to register for an audition class, visit http://markmorrisdancegroup.org/summer2013?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=school&utm_source=monthly+blast
Registrations are now being accepted for the 17th annual New England Dance Festival, to be held June 15 and 16 at the Timberlane Performing Arts Center in Plaistow, New Hampshire.
Run by Paula Callahan, a 25-year member of the Dance Teachers’ Club of Boston, the NEDF is a local competition that uses many DTCB members as judges. Categories include ballet, pointe, tap, lyrical, modern, hip-hop, contemporary, character, jazz, musical theater, production, open, student choreography, and Irish. Age divisions are primary (6 and under, 7 to 8), junior (9 to 10, 11 to 12), intermediate (13 to 14, 15 to 16), senior (17 to 18, 19 to 29), and adult (30 and older). Classifications include a pre-competitive class for first-year competitors, novice for dancers training two hours or less a week, amateur, pro-am, and professional.
Entries need to be received by May 17. Late entries will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis according to availability. For more information contact Paula Callahan at email@example.com.
By Mignon Furman
My training as a very young child included a step that is seldom done now. A favorite of mine, it was “the horsey step” (pas de cheval, or “step of the horse”). The foot is pointed devant and the arm is extended in front, in line with the foot, palm down, and eyes looking at the hand. The foot is then brought toward the supporting leg in a circular movement to approximately ankle height and returns to the pointed position, and at the same time the wrist and head lift.
Pas de cheval is now used mainly as a foot exercise. The same circular movement is taken from the fifth to pointe tendu devant or à la seconde. The foot makes a “licking” action as it leaves the floor. This movement is often seen in Bournonville choreography.
With sadness in our hearts, we at DSL announce the death of Mignon Furman on December 4, 2012. An obituary is forthcoming.